The Fire at Ross's Farm
The squatter saw his pastures wide
Decrease, as one by one
The farmers moving to the west
Selected on his run;
Selectors took the water up
And all the black soil round;
The best grass-land the squatter had
Was spoilt by Ross's Ground.
Now many schemes to shift old Ross
Had racked the squatter's brains,
But Sandy had the stubborn blood
Of Scotland in his veins;
He held the land and fenced it in,
He cleared and ploughed the soil,
And year by year a richer crop
Repaid him for his toil.
Between the homes for many years
The devil left his tracks:
The squatter pounded Ross's stock,
And Sandy pounded Black's.
A well upon the lower run
Was filled with earth and logs,
And Black laid baits about the farm
To poison Ross's dogs.
It was, indeed, a deadly feud
Of class and creed and race;
But, yet, there was a Romeo
And a Juliet in the case;
And more than once across the flats,
Beneath the Southern Cross,
Young Robert Black was seen to ride
With pretty Jenny Ross.
One Christmas time, when months of drought
Had parched the western creeks,
The bush-fires started in the north
And travelled south for weeks.
At night along the river-side
The scene was grand and strange --
The hill-fires looked like lighted streets
Of cities in the range.
The cattle-tracks between the trees
Were like long dusky aisles,
And on a sudden breeze the fire
Would sweep along for miles;
Like sounds of distant musketry
It crackled through the brakes,
And o'er the flat of silver grass
It hissed like angry snakes.
It leapt across the flowing streams
And raced o'er pastures broad;
It climbed the trees and lit the boughs
And through the scrubs it roared.
The bees fell stifled in the smoke
Or perished in their hives,
And with the stock the kangaroos
Went flying for their lives.
The sun had set on Christmas Eve,
When, through the scrub-lands wide,
Young Robert Black came riding home
As only natives ride.
He galloped to the homestead door
And gave the first alarm:
"The fire is past the granite spur,
And close to Ross's farm."
"Now, father, send the men at once,
They won't be wanted here;
Poor Ross's wheat is all he has
To pull him through the year."
"Then let it burn," the squatter said;
"I'd like to see it done --
I'd bless the fire if it would clear
Selectors from the run.
"Go if you will," the squatter said,
"You shall not take the men --
Go out and join your precious friends,
And don't come here again."
"I won't come back," young Robert cried,
And, reckless in his ire,
He sharply turned his horse's head
And galloped towards the fire.
And there, for three long weary hours,
Half-blind with smoke and heat,
Old Ross and Robert fought the flames
That neared the ripened wheat.
The farmer's hand was nerved by fears
Of danger and of loss;
And Robert fought the stubborn foe
For the love of Jenny Ross.
But serpent-like the curves and lines
Slipped past them, and between,
Until they reached the bound'ry where
The old coach-road had been.
"The track is now our only hope,
There we must stand," cried Ross,
"For nought on earth can stop the fire
If once it gets across."
Then came a cruel gust of wind,
And, with a fiendish rush,
The flames leapt o'er the narrow path
And lit the fence of brush.
"The crop must burn!" the farmer cried,
"We cannot save it now,"
And down upon the blackened ground
He dashed the ragged bough.
But wildly, in a rush of hope,
His heart began to beat,
For o'er the crackling fire he heard
The sound of horses' feet.
"Here's help at last," young Robert cried,
And even as he spoke
The squatter with a dozen men
Came racing through the smoke.
Down on the ground the stockmen jumped
And bared each brawny arm,
They tore green branches from the trees
And fought for Ross's farm;
And when before the gallant band
The beaten flames gave way,
Two grimy hands in friendship joined --
And it was Christmas Day.
by Henry Lawson, 1891
You can read more of Australian Henry Lawson's poetry here at the BAR-D.
One Less Chair at the Table
Thereíll be one less chair at the table
And one less gift Ďneath the tree.
There is one less saddle in the bunk house
But a gift of memories for me.
The first Christmas of memory
Was awesome and exciting of course,
All that I ask for was new yellow boots
And for sure, my own paint horse.
I had been a such good little girl
As good as a ranch kid could
I fed the chickens, gathered the eggs,
And fed the horses, just like I should.
But after boxes of dresses, Mary Jane shoes
And red ribbons for my hair,
There were no yellow boots under the tree
And I had looked almost everywhere!
Then my dad pointed way back
Almost outta my site,
One lone box could barely be seen
Could it be? Well it just might!
I had to crawl under that tree.
I pushed the dresses and shoes aside.
It was tuff being my dadís little kid
But I pulled the box out with pride.
I tore the ribbons from the box
And pulled the tissue away,
There inside a pair of yellow boots
What a wonderful Christmas day!
Those boots were a perfect fit.
And I wore them with pride,
And when I fell asleep that night,
They were there at my bedside.
So Iíll just leave that chair at the table,
Iíll hang a special ornament on the tree,
I will oil up that old saddle
And smile at my Christmas memory.
© 2003, Linda Kirkpatrick
Read more of Linda Kirkpatrick's poetry here.
A Christmas Poem
Christmas is a-comin' soon!
Pardner, ain't ya seen?
The decorations showed up
In the stores on Halloween!
The papers just plumb fulla ads;
Some days it's three feet thick!
That's good-we got a woodstove,
'N' we're short on kindlin' sticks.
The kids all hope that Santa
Brings 'em ever'thing they chose;
"I want a Nintendo!"
"Please don't bring me any clothes!"
The Sally Army's out in force,
A-tunin' up their band;
I always drop a dollar,
'Cause they once gave me a hand.
There's some who say we've lost the track,
'N' don't know rhyme or reason,
That all this hooraw overlooks
The spirit of the season.
They point 'n' say I don't believe,
'Cause in church ya'll never find me;
But I don't need no hymns, or prayers,
Or crosses to remind me.
This year, I think I'll try
What one ole cowpoke used to do;
I'll saddle up, 'n' leave a note:
"Back in an hour, or two."
I'll ride west outta Reno,
A-followin' the river,
'Way up into the mountains
Where the air's so cold it shimmers.
Far away from stores 'n' crowds,
Where the only single sound
Will be my pony's muffled steps
Through the snow upon the ground.
'N' when I reach the perfect spot
(I'll know it when I'm there),
I'll doff my hat, 'n' feel
The icy wind blow through my hair.
I'll find the brightest star that night,
Gaze up at it, 'n' say,
"Happy Birthday, Boss,"
'N' then I'll softly ride away.
© 1994 Rip-Snortin' Press
Read more of Charley Sierra's poetry here.
Photo by Danella Hughes
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